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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Q&A: James Brown, Republican Candidate for State Auditor

James Brown
Candidate Q&A
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We are gathering information from all statewide candidates as a resource for the 2024 Primary Elections. Responses were limited to 200 words per question. Political attacks may have been removed, but otherwise, the responses are published unedited.
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Q&A: Erin Farris-Olsen, Democratic Candidate for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court
We are gathering information from all statewide candidates as a resource for the 2024 Primary Elections. Responses were limited to 200 words per question. Political attacks may have been removed, but otherwise, the responses are published unedited.

We are gathering information from all statewide candidates as a resource for the 2024 Primary Elections. Responses were limited to 200 words per question. Political attacks may have been removed, but otherwise, the responses are published unedited.


What is your full name as it will appear on the ballot?

James Brown

What is your age?

53

Where do you live?

Dillon, MT

What is your education background?

Beaverhead County High School Class of 1989.

University of Montana, Missoula -- Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Political Science and History and a minor in Spanish.

Seattle University School of Law -- Juris Doctor

University of Washington, Seattle -- Master’s degree in Tax Law

Please list your current and previous occupations.

At present, I serve as President of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC). Prior to my election to the Commission, I owned and operated a private legal practice for more than a decade, wherein I represented primarily small business owners and agriculture producers. As a small business owner myself, I know what it means to sign both the front and back of a check; and I understand the importance of offering good paying jobs to Montanans. I served as a congressional aide in Washington D.C. for six years, as well.

What motivated you to seek the office of State Auditor?

I am a fourth generation Montanan. As such, I have a deeply held passion for Montana, my fellow Montanans, and for public service. My Montana roots, my extensive educational training, and my 30-plus years of work experience have prepared me to be a highly effective State Auditor from day one. When elected, my immediate job focus will be on promoting competition in the marketplace in order to lower customer costs, advancing consumer education efforts, protecting unfettered access to rural health care facilities and providers, and placing the interests of Montanans ahead of out-of-state corporations.

What experience do you have in regulating or working in insurance and securities?

As a long-time attorney, licensed insurance producer, and current state regulator, I have an extensive background in protecting Montanans from insurance and securities fraud while regulating those who work in these important industries fairly and impartially.

Additionally, I currently serve as President of the Montana Public Service Commission. The PSC is charged with state regulatory responsibilities in the complex worlds of the electric power, natural gas, telecommunications, railroad, pipeline, and transportation industries. The PSC engages in a regulatory decision-making and consumer protection role similar to that role played by the State Auditor in the areas of insurance, securities, and bail bondsman. Consequently, when elected, I will be able to effectively represent the citizens of Montana from day one.

As a congressional aide to former US Senators Conrad Burns, Chuck Hagel and former Congresswoman Judy Biggert, I staffed congressional committees with oversight of health, education, labor and pension matters. This included serving on the working group to draft and implement the original Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1998. Therefore, I have a strong background in the policy developments that inform the modern health insurance industry.

Most importantly, I am not in any way an insurance industry insider.

2024 Election Breakdowns
2024 Election breakdown: Montana governor's race
The presumed frontrunners in the race are Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Gianforte, a former tech entrepreneur from Bozeman, and Democrat Ryan Busse, a political newcomer and former firearms industry executive from Kalispell.We’ve also got Libertarian Kaiser Lieb, who runs a comedy production company, Republican Rep. Tanner Smith, a legislator and construction business owner from Lakeside, and Democrat Jim Hunt, an attorney in Helena.
2024 Election breakdown: Western U.S. House race
Five names will appear on primary ballots - two Republicans, one Democrat and two Libertarians. Although one of the Libertarians has unofficially dropped out and is not campaigning.
2024 Election breakdown: Attorney General race
There are three candidates in all, two Republicans, Austin Knudsen and Logan Olsen, and one Democrat, Ben Alke. That’s setting up a Republican primary.

How would you approach the Auditor’s role protecting Montanans, specifically senior citizens, against fraud and scams?

As I have strived to do every day of my professional career, as your next Auditor, I will focus my efforts on ensuring that Montana remains an affordable place to live, to raise a family and to retire. In this vein, I have zero tolerance for those who violate the law or attempt to financially abuse Montana’s senior citizens. The Auditor’s Office is, among other things, a law enforcement agency. Having been an attorney and an officer of the court, I will zealously defend all Montanans, especially our vulnerable seniors, from the fraudsters and scammers who would seek to prey on them, particularly those who use Artificial Intelligence to target the Treasure State’s most vulnerable populations.

What is more, I will continue the public education efforts undertaken by the current auditor, Troy Downing, to advise both regulated businesses and the public on the Montana laws administered by the Auditor’s office. This effort would include holding consumer information forums in communities around the State, namely in underserved areas of the state such as reservations and eastern Montana.

What is the most important issue facing Montana that this office can address and what is your plan for it?

The role of the State Auditor is far reaching and multi-faceted. Consequently, it is hard to name just one important issue to address. But I absolutely will focus on key issues such as making Montana a place where people seeking insurance coverage have numerous policy choices and can find insurance at affordable rates due to a healthy regulatory environment and robust competition.

I will also focus on protecting all Montanans from insurance fraud and scams. The underhanded criminals who perpetrate crimes against our seniors and other white-collar criminals will know that there is no place for them to operate in the Treasure State.

What should the state Land Board prioritize as it manages state trust lands?

Coming from a multi-generational Montana agriculture family, I will use my voice on this important board to advocate for the interests of rural Montanans. And, as an avid backcountry hiker and outdoorsman, I have a deep appreciation for our public lands and will work collaboratively with all parties to protect the historic Montana conservation practices of multiple use and sustainability. Having been educated at Montana schools, I will optimize the use of state trust lands to enhance funding for public education and to promote proper stewardship of these critical properties such that all Montanans benefit, particularly those who earn their livelihood from working the land.

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